When I think about sushi, I think about my time in the Far East, and I think about something that looks like this:
Supermarkets have been trying to capitalize of late upon the massive popularity of sushi. You can't go into a grocery store anymore without seeing a sushi-dedicated kiosk or deli counter. The rolls always look oddly shaped, the sashimi and sushi pieces like fake, color-treated rubber strips. The Korean chatter drifting from the chefs contributes to the questionable authenticity.
It's no news that sushi is popular, but what some people call sushi isn't really sushi, and what H-E-B and Kroger call sushi is even worse. I decided to do a taste test of the super market sushi at these two places and figure out which one had the best (of the worst) to offer.
Japan is a land of sparse natural resources. In feudal Japan, when there was a rigid caste system in place, the one commonality, from the high born samurai to the lowest eta -- the handlers of meat and the dead -- was that their fecal matter was collected and meticulously distributed around the rice fields for fertilization.
When you live on a jutting collection of volcanic islands which experience about 1,500 earthquakes each year, you need a little originality and inventive thought. (Nintendo, anyone?)
They also have some of the finest cuisine around. Japanese food is reflective of their culture on the whole: a devotion to each and every detail, no matter how seemingly insignificant. If one is to do a thing, one devotes his whole life to perfecting it.
Sushi is a remarkable representation of this ideal. I had the privilege of getting to travel to Tokyo for a week and seeing first hand the artistry and passion that sushi chefs display. They devote their entire life's passion towards their work, their raison d'être. Watch this trailer for more on this; this particular chef has been declared a national treasure by the country of Japan. That's pretty serious shit for putting slivers of fish onto balls of rice.
Unfortunately, we all don't have this luxury of experiencing first hand the artistry of sushi. I happened to be teaching in Korea at the time, so it was an easy trip, all things considered. This means most of us have to accept somewhat of a different standard.
C'est la vie.
First up was Kroger.
It cost $5.49 for nine of these small California rolls. They had the standard fillings, but it was more "maki-n me crazy" than "maki roll." Boom.
The avocado was already oxidized a bit, as well. It also seemed like the roe on the outside was an after-thought, as it was unevenly distributed about the outside of the roll.
It was dry. It was rubbery. The imitation crab was the highlight.
I have an unabashed love for imitation crab meat. I won't lie. I can't. I could write a whole story just on my love for it. I know what it's made of, and it's not pretty. Still, it's one of my guilty pleasures.
As far as a lunch is concerned, I think you'd be better off making a sandwich. Simple carbohydrates, fairly high fat and sodium in the crab meat and then a whiff of avocado and cucumber don't exactly help fill out your daily intake pyramid.
H-E-B came next. H-E-B at least offers the opportunity to sit and and enjoy this finally-nice weather that we've recently been experiencing with its outside seating, but the sushi experience isn't much better. The actual fillings reminded me of something more akin to an Israeli salad, as everything was somewhat cubed.
I was tempted to go for one of their fancier offerings. They had what amounted to a Crazy Roll and one called Crunchy Roll, but they were topped with the usual mayo-based sauce, sweet glazes and tempura flakes that just turn me off from most rolls. And a few of them had cream cheese inside. No, thanks. Can't stand it.
Plus, I figured I had to be scientific about it, so I'd best just try their same, standard California Roll.
It was, literally, exactly the same. Same stuff inside, same exact vaguely-Asian packaging... same everything, pretty much. H-E-B seems to be a little more refined, as it offers the choose-your-own-sushi piece bar. That's nice, but the stuff from there is pretty pedestrian, too. You also have to individually unwrap every piece of sushi you get from plastic wrap. How gauche.
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At $4.49, it was a little cheaper than Kroger's version, but, again, you are better off without.
If you must get your roll on, get your-get your-get your roll on, (what?) then just go to a place with a decent sushi lunch deal. They ALL have one, and it's really only a few dollars more for the real thing.